Fighter jet cockpit on display at new Tellus exhibit

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On display in the Crossroads Gallery through March 26, 2017, Tellus Science Museum’s “Mach Speed” exhibit is providing patrons a closer look at a fighter jet cockpit.

“One of our big galleries is Science in Motion that deals with transportation, and we have automobiles,” said Jose Santamaria, Tellus’ executive director. “We deal with trains, and we also deal with aviation. So we were looking for an exhibit that would both be visually exciting, but also that we could then use that exhibit to deal with some of the subjects of aviation and supersonic speed.

“... It’s a very cool, very unique exhibit. It’s a cockpit that’s on loan by an individual who restores cockpits. That’s his hobby. So he very generously lent it to us, and we’re very excited to have it.”

Opened in January 2009, Tellus — an expansion of the former Weinman Mineral Museum — became a Smithsonian affiliate during its first year.

Along with Science in Motion, the 120,000-square-foot museum at 100 Tellus Drive in Cartersville is comprised of three other main galleries — The Collins Family My Big Backyard hands-on science gallery, The Weinman Mineral Gallery and The Fossil Gallery — a 120-seat digital planetarium and an observatory.

According to a news release from Tellus, “Visitors will be able to see a jet fighter that flew at supersonic speeds over 50,000 feet in the air. ... The jet was capable of Mach 2 speeds — or twice the speed of sound. The cockpit has all manual controls with no onboard computers. Visitors will be able to look into the analog instrument panels and imagine what it must be like to be the pilot.

“The MiG-21 is the most produced jet fighter in history, having served in the air forces of over 50 countries with some still in service today. This particular cockpit is from a jet flown by the Polish Air Force at the height of the Cold War.”While the cockpit is the exhibition’s top highlight, Santamaria also shared that the display will feature interactive elements that will enhance a patron’s overall experience.

“The main attraction is obviously the cockpit — this cockpit from a Soviet built jet fighter,” Santamaria said. “So it’s about 26 feet long. It’s in the same condition that it was when it was taken apart. So this is not a restored cockpit. This is very well used, so people get the feel for that kind of level of technology of the era. You can walk up steps and look into the cockpit and see all these dials, all these switches and all these buttons. It’s pretty complex, pretty amazing.

“We have an interactive, where you can actually see through a real gunsight of a MiG-21 and look at a target. So you can play with the joystick and the throttle. That gives you a little bit of a feel for what it’s like to sit in the cockpit. We couldn’t really let people sit in the cockpit itself. It’s not very practical, not very safe. ... We also have an ejection seat from a MiG-21. So with fighter jets, when you have to bail, you can’t just open the cockpit and jump out. You have to exit pretty quickly. So this ejection seat is loaded with explosives that will just eject you out of the jet. Obviously, the explosives have been removed, but it’s a pretty exciting exhibit because you see the suspended seats with a dummy wearing a Soviet flight suit.”

For more information about the museum and its “Mach Speed” exhibit, call 770-606-5700 or visit http://tellusmuseum.org.